ST. MARYS — A local law enforcement agency recently netted a state grant to help its drug awareness program.
The Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office received $20,140.04 as part of a $3.8 million grant program administered by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office. The funding is earmarked to keep school resource officers and DARE officers active in the local schools. The money will also expand the focus of the anti-drug campaign to include the dangers of prescription drugs, as well as drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
“It helps us continue our DARE program with Deputy Sam Blank because that money pays for a large percentage of his salary,” Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon told The Evening Leader. “DARE is vital because he (Blank) has developed quite a rapport with the kids and it’s a connection I believe in. I think that connection continues through junior high and high school with a lot of the kids.”
Exposing children to law enforcement officials at a young age through the program has other benefits as well, Solomon noted.
“It gives us a humane feel to a guy in a uniform,” Solomon said. “When they have Sam in the classroom at a younger age, they get more comfortable being around guys in uniform.”
The local DARE curriculum is designed for students in fifth and sixth grades. Topics include building self esteem, drug awareness as well as anti-bullying messages.
“It used to be that DARE programs were strictly drug-related,” Solomon said. “It’s still a big part of it, but now we stress self esteem, bullying and last year and this year was prescription drugs. It really evolves as the times evolve.”
In a news release, DeWine stressed the importance of combating drugs and proper drug awareness education at a young age — including the dangers of prescription drugs.
“Prescription drugs are leaving the medicine cabinets and are ending up in school hallways,” DeWine said in the news release. “This is a serious problem, and we must do everything we can to teach students that prescription drugs are just as deadly as street drugs.”
Funding for the grants comes from driver’s license reinstatement fees collected from convicted drunk drivers when their driving privileges are restored.